In light of Mr Sinofsky’s departure, Microsoft has the following challenges

I was out with my son last night when my cousin sent me a text message saying “Holy Cow – Sinofsky’s gone!”.

CRAZY.

The President of Microsoft’s Windows division has moved on barely 2 + weeks after the release of Microsoft’s newest and most controversial Operating System – Windows 8.

In his wake, he has left Mr. Ballmer, Tami Reller and Julie Larson-Green to mind the proverbial Windows 8 store.

My sources are saying that this was more related to Microsoft’s internal politics and Mr. Sinofsky’s somewhat acerbic personality. They swear up and down that this was unrelated to the Windows 8 product, design, architecture and launch.

Having said that, this departure leaves Microsoft with some very difficult challenges.

Short term challenge – Prove that Windows 8 is not sh*t.

The timing of this move could not be worse.

Unless Mr. Sinofsky is really leaving for medical reasons (and I have no indications that he is), then this is a disaster.

Say what you will about Mr. Sinofsky and about his personality, the fact of the matter is that he became associated with Windows 8 as the master Architect.

It was clearly his vision and passion that drove a lot of the structure and architecture so his loss will be perceived as a black mark on the product.

It may not be right or fair but it’s almost inevitable that this will make OEM’s and industry watchers nervous.

Steve Ballmer, Julie Larson-Green and Tami Reller have a lot to prove.

Very quickly, the Windows leadership team need to take steps to assure the world that Mr. Sinofsky’s loss while unfortunate is (almost) irrelevant.

They need to prove that not only was this shakeup anticipated but thoroughly planned for. They need to prove that there actually is a strategic long term plan in place and that business will continue as usual.

I cover this company for a living and have seen way more of Tami Reller and JLG (on stage and online) than most people. For way too long, to the public, Mr. Sinofsky has clearly been the lone star of the Windows 8 parade.

These two ladies need to step up, (re)introduce themselves and in a very public manner, set the agenda.

They need to tell the Windows faithful what’s next for Windows 8 and what the medium to long term plans are for the platform.

What are they doing to encourage consumers and businesses to upgrade? What are their plans for the Surface and Surface Pro? Is more hardware on the way?

The need to be more transparent about long term plans for Windows 8 is essential for one major reason.

It’s essential because it is the only real way to show that Mr. Sinofsky’s loss isn’t a critical blow to the product. 

Staying silent is not an option at this point. It will be seen as a sign of total weakness, chaos and even worse, Mr. Sinofsky’s absence.

Now for Mr. Ballmer, even though he has 99 lives, this is surely the beginning of the end.

This was the release of Windows that was meant to be the biggest bet. It was meant to be the transformation of Microsoft from the desktop era to the mobile era.

While that transformation is indeed in progress, it’s hard to see how he can keep his job with such a clumsy and messy drama on his hands.

This is not the Microsoft that we needed to see in 2012/2013, this is the Microsoft that critics have complained about for the past decade – political, petty and full of infighting.

The next few weeks may be critical in defining the legacy of Steve Ballmer.

Long term challenge – Prove that Microsoft is not sh*t.

Windows 8 is a critical step Microsoft need to take.

While the case has been made that Windows is not really a central revenue source for Microsoft, (at least when compared to the Enterprise), this version of Windows really is pivotal.

Windows 8 is the beginning of the transformation of Microsoft from a stable boring IBM type company to a more youthful vibrant Google type company.

Microsoft (to their credit) have taken big risks with this Operating System. They have refused to cede the future to younger and more vibrant companies and are competing aggressively.

The loss of one executive should NOT torpedo this transition but it does (re)introduce the questions:

  1. Can they really do this?
  2. Are they really focused enough to put all the petty BS aside, work together, stay united and be successful?

The next few weeks will show us what they are made of.

It’s important to remember that Microsoft are attempting a dual transformation with Windows 8.

They are attempting to be:

  • The company that creates technology products you want to buy;
  • The company whose brand you want to be associated with;

The stakes for the company could not be higher.

Just take a look at the hurdles they have ahead of them:

  • They continually have to prove to investors that investing in Microsoft was the right decision.
  • They need to convince their competitors that Microsoft is a force to be reckoned with.
  • They have to convince OEM’s that this is a platform worth investing time and resources in.
  • They have to convince retailers that this is a product REALLY worth selling.
  • They need to convince developers that this is a platform worth investing time, resources and mind-share in.
  • They need to convince businesses that this is a platform worth investing training resources, time and money in.
  • They need to convince consumers to care at all.

It’s enough to make you start popping pills.

Microsoft needs to be a focused, driven company. There simply is not time for all this drama.

Some are saying that the exit of Mr. Sinofsky will usher in a more collaborative Microsoft where there is less politics, more transparency and as a result: more tightly integrated products.

All I can say is I hope so. The alternative is simply another decade in the wilderness.

That’s all from me.

What do you think about this mess?

Use the comments below…

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  • Tommy Rayburn

    I have been using Windows 8 since March as a media server and for my work desktop and I have NO complaints! I love the Metro (Modern) and I am excited about upcoming apps!

  • 4scoresn7yrsago

    So far Win 8 has treat me well. Using it on my workstation and I say it’s pretty nice. Absolutely love the boot times especially on a SSD. The metro look is pretty annoying though. I hate not having a start menu where you can directly access programs. XP.

    • CompUser

      There are several 3rd-party applications available that bring various versions of a start menu to Windows 8. I like StartIsBack the best, followed by ClassicShell. StartIsBack is pretty cheap (about $1.00/license), and it gives you the identical same start menu as in Windows 7. After installing it, right-clicking on the start button, then clicking on “Start Menu Properties” gives you the identical same customizing options as you get with “Taskbar and Start Menu” in the Windows 7 Control Panel. It also has options to customize the Start/Metro page by launching the StartIsBack program from the Start Menu, and your computer will boot directly to the desktop view. I’m using it on three Windows 8 computers, and to me, it makes Windows 8 the perfect operating system. (In case your wondering, I’m not affiliated with StartIsBack or ClassicShell in any way whatsoever.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/moira.whitlock.14 Moira Whitlock

    I already made my decision last year when I started beta testing this awesome OS through two versions, and happily purchased a boxed set in October to make Windows 8 permanent on my homebuilt computer. This departure will not change my mind, because I like Windows 8. It dares to be different, like I am.

  • CompUser

    I don’t think this will have any impact on Windows 8 or the Surface tablet. The overwhelming majority of Windows users have never heard of him so don’t know who he is anyway. They buy a computer, it comes with Windows, and if it works, they’re happy. If it doesn’t, they bitch about it and either contact the OEM or the store where they bought it for tech support. But they don’t know or care about who does/did what at Microsoft.

    • Rodney Longoria

      Exactly right, CompUser.

      • CompUser

        Thanks.

  • hans petersen danmark

    i dont like win 8 it slow my pc . Microsoft is tryeng to make dollars thats all win 7 is the best

  • Rodney Longoria

    Maybe Microsoft will now hire Scott Forstall? Neither Tami Reller or Julie Larson-Green are engineers but then again, that may not be a bad thing because all the other engineers will now have more input to that won’t be squashed up front.

  • ItachiCruz08

    what’s wrong with win 8 when I was on 7 I’m only using 2gb of ram and the resource using is 1.71 gb so it’s kinda slow and when I upgrade to win 8 I’m only using 2gb but the resource using is just 1gb and it’s faster to boot up everything is faster than 7 the only thing I hate is some of application is not compatible with win 8

  • http://twitter.com/ExplorePoint Neil McQueen

    I’ve got to agree with CompUser in that the majority of actual and possible customers out there have no idea who Steven Snifosky is and don’t care, this is only really an issue for top end pros. I personally use Win8 for work and home and I own a surface as well and I love the OS, one my surface I have a home button and on my desktop just by putting my mouse where the start button was I have a return to my Win8 user interface screen (metro) the access to all my installed programs is faster that an old style menu system and if the program is not tiled to my home screen just a press of the first letter brings up a list in which
    it is available i.e. pressing W brings up Word. As I work in education I have run demos for Win8 with students and staff aging from 16 to 85 and once the base knowledge is there, there has been only positive remarks and I know alot who have then gone out and ordered it, the only exception being the hard core apple fans. I should point out that I have taught OS usage since 95 and Win8 has been the easiest for brand new users to pick up by a long long way, the complaints about it that I’ve read in so many reviews seem to all stem from Pros who have been doing things the same way for the last decade and hate the idea of something changing. I remember the uproar about XP and the screw ups that were made then and I remember the complaints about vista and the all those comments about Win7 being nothing more than an upgrade from Vista and yet XP and Win7 are now the best OS’s ever, give it a couple of years and people will be saying the exact same thing about Win8 whilst getting worked up about the release of Win9.

  • Gaston

    I bought WINDOWS 8 PRO and i love it…That’s it–That’s all.. Merci Onuora for all you did…See you with WINDOWS 9 soon……